Why You Shouldn’t Supplement Vitamin D

Why You Shouldn’t Supplement Vitamin D

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You know when you go to the supplement aisle at your local supermarket and you see those little – or big – bottles of vitamin D? Those bottles can range anywhere from a few hundred iu (international unit) all the way up to 5,000 iu. Well, on the shelf, anyway. If you happen to look at all the supplements on offer at your doctor’s office, you might even notice vitamin D supplements of a whopping 50,000 iu. Now, that’s a supplement.

But, do you really need that much vitamin D in one sitting? Compared to the average recommended dose of 400 – 800 iu per day, 50,000 iu is enough to last you at least a few months. If your body even stores it for that long – which it probably doesn’t.

While you might need a little extra if you don’t (or can’t) spend much time outdoors, or have certain conditions that cause a deficiency – like multiple sclerosis or certain cancers – you simply don’t need to flood your system with thousands of units of vitamin D.

In a 2010 study by the IOM (Institute of Medicine), it was found that most American adults are getting sufficient vitamin D every day. The study also suggests that, apart from supporting bone health, there may not be any real benefits to supplementing your vitamin D intake, at all. Here are a few reasons why you shouldn’t be supplementing with vitamin D, and how it may even be harmful to your health…

Photo: WikiMedia Commons/Rhoda Baer

Supplements Aren’t A Cure

In 2013 a study by Lancet found evidence to suggest that there’s a moderate to strong association between low vitamin D3 concentrations and:

  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • High cholesterol
  • Inflammation
  • Diabetes
  • Weight gain
  • Infectious diseases
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Mood disorders
  • Declining cognitive function
  • Impaired physical function

All of which can increase the risk of premature death; however, vitamin D wasn’t found to lower the risk of cancers or other chronic diseases. Neither did the study show that vitamin D had an effect on disease – positive or otherwise – save for a possible link to a lower mortality rate in the elderly (primarily women).

The one major theme throughout the study is that vitamin D deficiency can be an indicator of generally poor health, as is the case with inflammation, weight gain, and high cholesterol.

So, while using a supplement to increase your levels of this essential vitamin may help lower your risk of disease, it’s by no means a cure.

Photo: Flickr.com/Colin Dunn

Vitamin D Supplements May Interfere With Medications

Vitamin D3 is similar in makeup to calcitriol (a medication used to treat chronically low calcium levels). So similar, in fact, that not only can it compete with it in your system, but it can even block it altogether, making calcitriol totally ineffective.

It can even compete with other – fat soluble – vitamins, causing an imbalance. But, calcitriol and vitamins aren’t the only things it can mess with. It may also have an effect on medications used to treat:

  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Liver disease
  • Arrhythmia
  • Renal dysfunction

If you have any of these health issues, it’s important that you consult your healthcare provider before taking vitamin D. These illnesses – and more – are often treated with medications that can react poorly with vitamin D, even causing a calcium buildup in your blood.

A calcium buildup can cause:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle weakness
  • Bone pain
  • Kidney problems

On the flipside, some research has found that supplementing with vitamin D may increase both IQ and longevity – but, since this study was conducted on dialysis patients, the same can’t be assumed to be true in healthy people.

Photo: publicdomainfiles.com

Vitamin D Resistance Matters

Did you know that people with autoimmune diseases can often have high levels of active vitamin D?

Seems counterintuitive, doesn’t it? Especially when you remember that vitamin D supplements have been a classic go-to for autoimmune patients. It’s also long been used in treatment plans for other diseases like AIDS, rheumatoid arthritis, and even leukemia.

The thing is that, many times, those who suffer from these illnesses also have vitamin D resistance. Though there is some debate over what causes vitamin D resistance, it’s thought that the cause may be bacterial infection.

As your body creates more and more vitamin D, the bacterial buildup causes your body to simply stop absorbing. Effectively, it denies its entrance at the gate, and creates a line around the block.

Photo: pxhere

How To Check Your Vitamin D Levels

If you see a conventional doctor, all you need to do is ask them to pay special attention to your vitamin D levels – especially if you suspect they might be low. A few indicators of a possible deficiency are:

  • Unexplained fatigue or tiredness
  • Unexplained hair loss
  • Muscle pain
  • Slow healing of cuts and scrapes

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, check in with your healthcare provider and discuss how you can increase your vitamin D. But, don’t be surprised if – before any supplements are offered – the first recommendation is to spend a little more time outside (making sure not to overdo it, and burn, of course).

While most lab results will show a “reference range,” that range may not include the ideal levels for you; still, it’s a good starting point, and gives you something to work towards naturally, without unnecessary supplementation.